The Place Beyond the Pines


This film directed by Derek Cianfranc-Blue Valentine– is an ambitious attempt to draw together three separate narratives with a linking linear thread which succeeds on many levels but ultimately feels cumbersome and over extended towards its conclusion. Featuring Ryan Gosling as a bleached blonde, heavily tattooed biker boy in a ripped Metallica t-shirt who performs stunts in a travelling show, Cianfranc bravely kills his star off after the first hour. His lead role duties baton is immediately handed over to Bradley Cooper who carries the film until it is handed down to two younger actors Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen who lead the film out in its least convincing sequence.

 Opening with a long shot of Gosling’s ‘photo-shopped’ torso the first part of the film focuses on his drifter character Luke whose life and attitude changes when he discovers he has fathered a child with Romina-Eva Mendes- and decides to stick around and be involved in his son Jason’s life. However a life on the straight and narrow provides neither financial gain nor excitement so eventually he turns to robbing banks with his friend Robin –Ben Mendelsohn- which eventually leads to a police shootout with fatal consequences. This brief scene is the only moment Gosling’s character and Cooper’s policeman, Avery Cross, actually intersect but it is a pivotal moment which ensures their lives are forever entwined.

 The consequences of Avery’s shooting of Luke are far reaching- he has a son the same age as Luke’s and feels guilt at leaving a youngster fatherless- and eventually he finds himself involved in police corruption led by a superior officer named Deluca- an appropriately menacing Ray Liotta- which he has to extricate himself from by any means necessary but ultimately in the most advantageous to himself.

 Fast forward fifteen years and the two progeny-both now 17- of the leading characters end up bonding at High School over alcohol, drugs and their outsider status. Avery Cross is now involved in politics and running for public office. His son AJ is sullen and moody despite all the advantages he has at his disposal. Luke’s son Jason however is as much of a loner but has his father’s naturally withdrawn state to contend with as well. The two form an unconvincing friendship which rapidly falls into competitiveness and eventually out and out hostility.

 This last section of the film is its least convincing and feels as if it has been tacked on to give the narrative some sense of closure. The acting performances are also in a different league to those of Cooper and Gosling and lose some of the momentum the two actors have managed to attain thus far. Gosling especially makes the most of his screen time with a performance which relies little on dialogue but more on the nuance of expression. In a lesser actor it would come across as little other than method moping- a fault the two younger actors in the last third of the film fall into- but in his hands it is a riveting performance on a par with his turn in Drive.

 Ultimately The Place Beyond the Pines falls short of its lofty ambitions but it is still an accomplished film which is head and shoulders above many others on the circuit at the moment. It is mainly its last section which lets it down but until that point it is an admirable attempt at drawing two different stories and lifestyle together and showing how one moment’s decision can affect certain individuals lives for years to come and for generations in the future.

  1. Nice review. Nothing special, but the cast is great and works through any pit-fall the script may throw at them.

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